Having lived in the Caribbean for several years I got very used to having all my drinks served ice cold. When I returned to the UK it was (and still is) a constant grumble that you can’t get a cold drink in a pub and that no one ever puts enough ice in my glass. Now at last I have the research to back up my complaint.
Research into the mechanisms of taste and smell has shown that there is a specific pathway from taste buds (known romantically as Trpm-5- channel) that is highly sensitive to temperature, 100 times more so at 37C than at 15C. This explains why bitter drinks, gin and tonic for example, taste better with ice, the bitterness being suppressed by the lower temperature.
Interestingly an extra sensitivity to bitter taste (associated with a higher number of fungiform papillae found on the tip and side of the tongue) is present in about 25% of the population and is due to genetic variations. This helps explain how wine tasters can waffle on about flavours that the rest of us can’t detect and also gives an excuse to children who complain about eating their “greens” as they tend to have a much-heightened response to bitter tastes.
The response to this research is now clear
1) Just put more ice in my glass to shut me up at a party
2) Ignore wine tasters, they are genetic freaks
3) Serve children their “greens” ice cold to reduce the bitter taste.